The Grave Business of Returning to Running

Me and running?  It’s complicated.

What is it they say ‘you run therefore you are a runner‘? Something like that.  I don’t know if I’m completely persuaded by that logic.  I’d like to think so, obviously, on the other hand, imposter syndrome eats away and fear of being caught out and blah de blah until you (well, OK just me then) drown in a pool of existential angst of your own making.  Apologies to the grammar police for the confusing mix of metaphors, analogies and I know not what else, but it’s sort of complicated.  I’ve had such a gap in my running with being away for over three months, I feel like I’m starting all over again but this time at age 52.  Not the most auspicious of starting blocks available…

Parkrun again today.  Yay(ish).  It was raining.  It was grey.  Despite my inward promises never again to complain about running in the cold and wet after the toxic tyranny of heat and humidity and perpetual unrelenting sun in Phnom Penh, I find I’m not altogether brilliant at following through (who knew?)*  Rather, I am grumpy.  As ever.   I’m starting to wonder is this my defining – or at the very least my default – characteristic?**

It’s not all bad.  After a bit of a love / hate thing with Hallam,  (love it, it’s my local parkrun, on my doorstep, lots of friends there – but – just getting a bit too crowded for comfort) – a trio of us decide to head over to Graves, change is as good as a rest, should help with the motivation a bit.  I lurve Graves parkrun. They are pathologically friendly over there, though to be fair it is a well-known fact that all parkrunners everywhere are –  and you get to see Highland coos, always a boon at a parkrun and not true everywhere.  There are a lot of hills, but I weirdly missed them in Cambodia, and I’m never going to get any better at this running malarkey if I only ever heave-ho my weary carcass round routes that are millpond flat.

So it was this morning, we three were sat in a car at Graves Park, contemplating taking on Graves parkrun, looking out across the grey mist of the morning, and I accidentally said out loud ‘I don’t even think I like running very much to be honest‘.  It’s a worry of getting older that this happens to me increasingly often, I say things that I was just thinking without meaning too.  I’m quite comfortable with talking to myself in the privacy of my own home – isn’t everyone?***  I do worry sometimes when I find myself shouting so I can hear my own voice over the noise of the vacuum cleaner that I’ve maybe let thing go a bit far, but then again I hardly ever vacuum so it doesn’t really arise.  Let’s keep these things in perspective.  The response was mutual laughter, and a conversation with a slightly confessional tone to it.  There are many things about running in general and parkrun in particular that are inspirational, glorious and yes actually fun.  But when I’m actually running, I don’t know, it’s hard.  It doesn’t get easier, it’s complicated.  Gazing through the windscreen at the inclement weather I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get out of the car.  Brrrrr.  We reminisced about other runs out, where keen other runners forced us out of roasty toasty vehicle interiors so they could do punishing warm-ups in horizontal hail to help them achieve pbs at the Percy Pud say.  What kind of an apology of a runner am I to favour a bit longer on the faux leather seating over a careful warm up and stretch routine?****

Time ticked by.  Eventually we conceded if we didn’t get out, we’d miss parkrun altogether, so out we got.  You know what.  Things immediately looked up. The reality of stepping out wasn’t anything like as bad as the anticipatory thinking about it!  A bit of spring drizzle is just the thing to run in.  Lemon drizzle cake might be better, but you have to take up what options are available to you or you’ll miss out on a whole lot.  Graves park is actually glorious. Don’t take my word for it, knowing the camera never lies just review the evidence for yourself.  Thanks to Gail Moss for the use of the awesome photos, it’s always great to have the spirit of parkrun captured by the volunteer snappers:

dont you just love it

The first glory of parkrun is the colourful tops congregating in one place.  Like Tibetan prayer flags floating about.  A generous sprinkling of luminous tabard-clad volunteers bore witness to either their generosity of spirit or the close proximity of the Dronfield 10k.  I like to think both.  Why not, more the merrier when it comes to volunteering, cheery marshals always help me round.  I will try not to hold too much of a grudge against the one positioned near the donkey who refused to swap places with me half way round.  (The marshal, not the donkey, the donkey might have appreciated the outing to be honest, but wouldn’t have been able to blag my barcode so easily.  Also, Roger might have been put out.

Turns out, who knew?  I love parkrun!  There was the familiar milling about at the start.  The run-director’s briefing.  Graves is small enough that you can all gather round to hear this.  The RD standing on a handily situated park bench holding forth like a preacher bearing witness.  Actually, it was a bit like being in a benign cult in parts as this run briefing includes audience participation!  Yes it really does.  Like panto. There are familiar utterings and responses.  So the RD declaims ‘no barcode’ and gestures for the expected shout out retort ‘no result’.   Good concept checking too I thought.  ‘How many times through the finish tunnel?’  rousing choral response ‘once!’  I might have made that one up actually, but who cares, you get the idea.  Anyway, it was all very pleasing.  Favourite moments for me today included:

  • Whoops and shout outs to the volunteer at the Graves Park cross-road point on the occasion of his 100th volunteering.  It was quite a commotion. Whether the rowdiness was sufficient for the noise of such vocal appreciation to reach the intended recipient I know not, but the appreciation was most certainly there. All volunteers everywhere, be it your one-hundredth occassion in the hi-vis or your first, we salute you.
  • Heckling by triangle.  Nope, really.  You know that BBC interview that got hi-jacked by the offspring of the interviewee talking about Korea?  Well, it was pretty much identical to that, except that in this instance the child was in possession of a very large triangle, which he utilised to noisy effect throughout.  Bravo!
  • Shout outs for newbies, anniversary runners (really, none today?) volunteers and parkrun tourists.  Though I think the bar must have been set quite high previously as when someone proclaimed themselves to be from Doncaster or wherever there was a bit of collective shrug and a ‘we were thinking more New Zealand’ response.  Said more in sadness than in anger, I was pleased I hadn’t stuck my hand up as a migrant from Hallam. I’m never sure about that. I mean technically I am a tourist as Hallam is my home run, but I think of all Sheffield parkruns as spiritually ‘mine’ so to speak.  Is that greedy, or is that usual?*****
  • The addition of a person with a white board, to get volunteers to sign up for future events.  I think this is a really good move. I’ve been turned down loads of times for volunteering because I always seem to be operating just in time principles or pick dates pre races when volunteers are in glut mode.  This is an encouraging initiative, and as today it was announced to be a course record in terms of the numbers of volunteers (25 in fact) I suspect they try not to turn away volunteers, which is also inclusive and encouraging.
  • Follow the breadcrumbs – i.e. other runners.  Yep, that’s OK.  I can do that.

I can’t remember too much more about the briefing.  Nor could I quite remember where the start line was to be fair.  We had to traipse back along the path a bit. I got slightly panicky when I thought we’d end up in the front line at one point. That would have had novelty value of course, but the fun element might have been reduced by being trampled early on.  Also, they don’t have their defibrillator yet, though they very nearly do, and it isn’t too late to donate either if you want to – though don’t forget to put ‘for defib’ in the comments column if you do.

As we hesitated at this point, a friendly (and very tall) marshal came to scoop us up and shoo us further back in the line up.  ‘It’s not just because your old I’m saying this‘ he said, ‘it’s because you have to be below 17 minutes to finish first and the course record is currently held by a 12 year old’.  That’s fair enough, I’ll concede we do look over 12 and I wont be finishing in 17 minutes unless I only do the one loop.

The start was a little late, but who cares.  And we were off.  You start down hill. Weeeeeeeeeee.  Then you get to wave at the 100 times marshal, and you get to look at the ducks and the frontrunners flying round.  It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other at the end of the day.  The route has been ‘improved’ since I was last there.  More tarmac, less mud. That’s probably good and inclusive to be fair, very buggy friendly, but gives it  less rural feel than I remembered.  Cheery marshals did sterling work on the way round.  The hundred-timer and a side-kick at the crossroads doing excellent cheering and pointing.   The two women cheering us up the hill at the Meadowhead entrance with motivational shout outs.  I only know it’s called that because I just looked it up on the course description for Graves parkrun, honestly I just follow the people in front blindly and hope they are actual parkrunners and not random others, who might not take to me chasing them.  Then there was the woman and girl positioned just where you turn right into the animal farm who clapped the whole time. No really, both times I went past.  I congratulated them on their stamina in this respect most sincerely.  I always try to clap everyone when I marshal and it does take a toll on your wrists over time I don’t mind admitting it!

There were tonnes of marshals out there today, too many to give all a mention, but all the words of encouragement were appreciated.  Also the donkey who brayed really loudly was in impressive voice too.  His (?) voice resonating across the park like a humpback whale mournfully singing across the oceans.  My mood improved.  I only had one bad moment, when I was puffing up the hill in the animal park, Shetland to the left of me, owls to the right of me stuck in the middle with me – and a fellow runner cheerily proclaimed, ‘oh well, at least it’s always easier doing this second time around!’ What the?  How had I forgotten this was a two-lap course.  ‘There’s another lap?’  Not my finest hour.  Fortunately though it is easier second time around.  Plus you get to pass the cheery finish funnel, which was flanked by volunteers like a guard of honour.  The shifty looking one with the dark glasses was either a body guard or just general security, you can’t be too careful these days when celebrity runners like Lily are participating, however low-profile they may be trying to be:

guard of honour at the finish line

Mercifully, and somewhat surprisingly I wasn’t lapped on this course, though disappointingly nor was I mistaken for the first finisher.  Second time around there were loads of kids on the climbing frame in the playground waving joyously and furiously at a little gang of runners ahead of me, that was rather glorious.   The volunteer marshals kept up their shouts of support, and even the presence of ‘normal people’ milling around in the animal park as I sprinted (ahem) through didn’t throw me.  Get me and my running credentials.  The car park marshal gave helpful directional point and then the final marshal urged for a sprint finish, which I didn’t actually achieve, but I certainly cheered up when the end was in sight.  And here dear reader, is the miracle of running:-

grave business of running

I might think I don’t like the actual running, but I am usually smiling when I’m doing it. That hair colour is still wrong though isn’t it.  Sigh, maybe I should start to go grey gracefully.

Of course I was last in of my trio, but that’s OK, meant they were around to cheer me in.  Then there is the post-run debriefing and the post-parkrun breakfast.  We went to The Rude Shipyard in the antiques quarter.   Food and ambience was really excellent, but it was a bit nippy in there.  I’d never been before and I’d definitely go again. Vegetarian and vegan options, most impressive.  I was glad I had my scarf though.

I had got noble plans of venturing out again for various outdoor city activities but was defeated by own near terminal inertia, inclement weather and my difficulty in working out what on earth was going on anywhere because of a really confusing website.  Oh well.  It meant I got to peruse the Graves parkrun photos and enjoy post run endorphins from the comfort of my own sofa.  Not too shabby a way to spend an afternoon in my book, it is possible to have too much excitement in one day. Let’s just enjoy the moments as they come eh.  Thank you awesome photographer Gail for all your efforts today!  Anyone would think from the photos that we were all having fun the whole time…

So thanks Graves People.  You never disappoint.  And I think you’ve already endured longer than Pan’s People or will do anyway.  Lycra terminology may have replaced a lot of the spandex, but who are we trying to kid?  It’s the same stuff, and the moves are certainly all there.  Go you, go them, go us, go me!

love parkrun

Oh, and was that Lily the wonder-dog I espied!  All’s well with the world.  Order exists, the world still turns, and we can temporarily at least ignore the horrors that threaten to overwhelm us.

lily the wonderdog

Sweet dreams y’all.

*rhetorical question, thank you for your interest but no replies required.

**also rhetorical question, as above, thank you for your interest but no replies required.

***also rhetorical, most questions are today, but your interest is noted.

****yep, that was too.

*****you know, that one might be an actual question.  I’m not sure. What do you think?  (See what I did there? 🙂 )

Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Grave Business of Returning to Running

  1. Pingback: Token women! Hallam Heroines…* | Running Scared

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